This chapter was much better than the last in that it was coherent and flowed in the context of the subject matter. This would have been a good spot to insert the idea of the devil's "simultaneous translation" strategy that he discusses elsewhere. He describes this as the difference between what our eyes see on the pages of the Bible, even familiar, perhaps memorized passages, and its meaning that we tell ourselves in our minds. He says that by such "translation", we reduce the Word and strip it of its power. Is this the devil at work? Perhaps.
Oswald Chambers calls it "belief in our beliefs". Call it what you will, correct attribution is rather difficult and at best a guess. Is it the devil actively at work, sitting aside the Christian, or is it the Christian's deceitful heart of flesh? It really does not matter. Sufficient to realize is the fact that both are at work and both must be guarded against at all costs.
This chapter is a good example of that necessity for it more than any other so far in the book is at the forefront of the tele-Christian and radio-Christian kingdoms. For here Dr. Sproul introduces another group of people who can be most visciously assaulted by the wiles of the devil and the profit-seekers of the flesh. He says, "It may well be that the greatest effect of the propagation of this foolishness isn’t found among those who fall for it but among those who don’t fall for it. In other words, the heresy is most effective among those who don’t believe the heresy." He sums this effect as, "Because we don’t believe in the health-and-wealth gospel, we may find it all too easy to not believe the promises of God."
Who is this latter group of Christians? They are those who have not decided such matters at all. They are waiting for someone to tell them what to believe. Or perhaps they are waiting to gather sufficient evidence (Biblical or otherwise) to the side they prefer, thus tipping the scales sufficiently to their side to cause them to believe the "overwhelming" evidence. The great danger in all this is that this group in reality fails to believe and exercise themselves in the sufficient teaching of Holy Spirit.
Do you trust the teaching of the Holy Spirit within you to such a degree that the word of any other man is inconsequential? Do you believe I John 2:27 above all else? "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."
To answer that question, examine these two others:
To whom do you go first for answers to your Bible questions?
To who do you go most often for these answers?
If you leave it to just Sunday with your pastors and teachers you are most in danger of the devil's "simultaneous translation" and believing your beliefs rather than the truth of the Word of God. Here Dr. Sproul inserts another gem of conviction. He writes, "Once more, through the diabolical ministrations of the Serpent, we come to texts like these and see them not as occasions for repentance but as an occasions for theological debate." Perhaps we get ourselves into this behavior because we read things like this about Paul:
Acts 19:8 - "And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God."
Acts 28:23 - "And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening."
But Paul was not arguing theology. He was persuading, expounding, testifying, and disputing. The centrality of his words was the Word. He spoke of the kingdom of God and things concerning Jesus out of the law of Moses and the prophets. The one thing that we must stop doing if we are to engage in such work is this:
No more discussion of our beliefs about our beliefs. No more of our words. The only Word with any effect at all is the Word of God. Our words must be few and seasoned heavily if not exclusively with His Words. When folks come to me to dispute (and I love a good discussion) I will immediately demand they argue solely from Scripture when after a few minutes I find their words void of such but instead full of themselves. We simply must not tolerate the disputation of our beliefs and our words. They are fruitless. Only God's Word bears the fruit of salvation and life.
The end of this chapter is a great and worthwhile read for here Dr. Sproul explains in detail another failing of the flesh as it does another deceitful job of planting a false belief in our minds. Spend time here meditating before God exactly what He means by "blessing" in Malachi 3:10. The blessing is not necessarily a 1:1 correspondence with the tithe (or in this case a one to many). The blessing can take on many facets and will only be recognized when we are right and One with God. Otherwise, our beliefs creep in again and we set ourselves up with false expectations of the kinds of blessings that God "owes" us. This is particularly dangerous in this age of entitlement. We really don't believe that God is sufficient. (II Corinthians 12:9, II Corinthians 3:5, Luke 14:28-33)